In chapter ten we read about the publication of Elizabeth Prentiss’ most popular novel, Stepping Heavenward. No doubt this book is well loved by many of you. Over a year ago, Kristin posted some brief thoughts on this book, a work that continues to encourage women even in the twenty-first century. We’ve reposted her comments below for you to enjoy.
Chapter eleven covers a time period when Elizabeth published several more works—among them Aunt Jane’s Hero, “an ‘advice’ manual on courtship and marriage cast in the form of a novel.”
On page 233 of Elizabeth Prentiss: ‘More Love to Thee’ you will find a list of current works by Elizabeth Prentiss still in print. You can purchase Aunt Jane’s Hero along with several others from Calvary Press. A.B. Publishing has made still more of her works available, and Solid Ground Christian Books has reprinted Golden Hours: Heart-Hymns of the Christian Life. We hope this study of Elizabeth Prentiss’ life has encouraged you to read more of this godly woman’s writings.
Please read the final chapter, twelve for next week. And stick around for the Friday Funnies.
August 17, 2005
Several years ago, in between the births of my sons Andrew and Liam I suffered two miscarriages in a row. When I was walking through the disappointment of my first miscarriage, my friend Nadia gave me the book Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss.
In this book, Elizabeth’s fictional character Katy begins as a selfish teenager, and Elizabeth brings us into her thoughts, struggles, and sin. Then she takes us on the journey of Katy’s life as she embraces her call as a wife and mother. We are able to see up close the Lord’s work in her life as she walks through much trial and suffering.
As I found my soul tempted towards discouragement and unbelief, Prentiss’ (loosely autobiographical) character’s suffering put mine in perspective. She lost one of her children and experienced significant physical challenges that confined her to her room for lengthy seasons. Yet as she passed through this shadow of death she took hold of Scripture and began to embrace a God-centered perspective on her trials.
As Katy recounts:
“During my long illness and confinement to my room, the Bible has been almost a new book to me, and I see that God has always dealt with His children as He deals with them now, and that no new thing has befallen me. All these weary days so full of feebleness, these nights so full of unrest, have had their appointed mission to my soul. And perhaps I have had no discipline so salutary as this forced inaction and uselessness, at a time when youth and natural energy continually cried our for room and work.”
Whatever my days and nights hold, my confidence is this: they always have their appointed mission to my soul. Whether it’s the significant trial of a miscarriage or the simple daily temptations faced in just patiently caring for my two-year-old, I can be sure that in every day the Lord has an appointed mission for my soul.
Ultimately my hope and joy rest not in my circumstances. Whether my days are happy or difficult, whether I experience loss or gain. God’s word points me to the joy that is unshakeable, the joy of knowing peace with Him, through Jesus Christ. Prentiss’ character, Katy, found in God the same unshakeable joy. And these are her words on a particularly happy day:
“This is the 10th anniversary of our wedding day and it has been a delightful one. If I were called upon to declare what has been the chief element of my happiness I would say it was not Ernest’s love to me or mine to him or that I am once more the mother of three children or that my own dear mother still lives, though I revel in each and all of these. But underneath them all, deeper, stronger than all, lies a peace with God that I can compare to no other joy, which I guard as I would guard hidden treasure, and which must abide even if all other things pass away.”
I want to be faithful to guard that hidden treasure of peace with God, whether in joy and prosperity, or in suffering.
A birth took place in our family today. And no, it wasn’t Tori. She’s still comfortably waiting until someone forces her into this big wide world.
This delivery is the edited manuscript of our book, Shopping for Time, to Lydia, our editor at Crossway Books. God was very gracious to allow us to finish before baby Tori’s arrival!
Thank you to all of you who prayed for us these past few weeks. We experienced God’s mercy in numerous ways—sustaining grace for early morning hours of writing, wisdom and clarity for what direction to take the book, and insightful edits from Dad.
We wanted to share an opening illustration (unedited, mind you) from one of the chapters. Our prayer for this book is the same as the one we had for Girl Talk. It’s from Philip Doddridge: “However weak and contemptible this work may seem in the eyes of the children of this world, and however imperfect it really be, [may it] nevertheless live before thee; and through a divine power, be mighty to produce the rise and progress of religion.”
“When Kristin’s three energetic boys visit Mom-Mom’s house, they burst in the door—all smiles and yells—and run several laps around her kitchen, hallway and sitting rooms before coming to a stop…but only for a moment…in front of the jelly-bean jar. Candy in fists, they’re off again. In fact, wherever they are—at home, church, or in the store—Andrew, Liam and Owen are one big happy bundle of constantly moving arms and legs. They jump up and down, wrestle incessantly, and run in circles if there is nothing better to do. Sitting still: not exactly their forte. So, in an effort to teach them this refined art, Kristin recently instituted “No Moving, No Talking, No Touching (oh, and No Silly Faces) Time.” For fifteen minutes or more each day, the boys must sit on the couch with feet forward, folded hands in laps, and of course, no moving, talking, touching (or silly faces!) while Kristin reads to them. You can see the tension in their little bodies—which explodes the minute the kitchen timer rings and they bound off to one of their favorite activities such as climbing a tree, sword fighting, or kicking the soccer ball. Sitting still is hard work for little boys. It’s not easy for us women either. We’re doers, not sitters by nature. We awake each morning, our minds whirling with all we want to accomplish that day. We bound off to complete these urgent tasks. But we must sit before we do. In order to effectively shop for time, we must first sit—sit at Jesus’ feet.”
We have had some warm weather this week, which has sent Mike on a smoothie-making kick. Actually, all of our men love smoothies, but Brian is the only one who owns the VillaWare® Double Smoothee-Bar™ Blender & Serve. (No, I’m not kidding! He actually has a special smoothie-making blender. I found a picture to impress you.) Mike, Steve, and Chad are stuck with boring old “normal blenders,” but that doesn’t hold them back. Dad relies on Mom to make his fruit drink. I’m not sure he knows how to use a blender! We thought it would be fun to let you in on some of the men’s favorite smoothie recipes so that you can try them out if you are so inspired.
Steve’s Strawberry Banana 2 c. vanilla ice cream 1 ½ c. fresh strawberries 1 banana 2 tsp. sugar 2 tbsp. lemon juice Splash of milk for consistency
Combine all ingredients and blend.
Brian’s Blueberry Maple 1 c. blueberry yogurt ¾ c. milk 1 tbsp. maple syrup ½ tsp. ground cinnamon 2 c. fresh blueberries, frozen
Combine first four ingredients. Then add blueberries. Blend until smooth consistency.
Brian’s Banana Coffee 1 c. milk ¾ c. strong brewed coffee, room temperature 2 c. fresh bananas, frozen and sliced 6-8 ice cubes ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Combine milk and coffee. Add bananas and blend until smooth. With the blender running, open top and add ice cubes until desired consistency.
Dad’s Orange Creamsicle 1 c. orange juice ¼ c. half-and-half 2 tbsp. vanilla flavored syrup
Combine ingredients; pour over plenty of ice.
Mike’s Strawberry Banana 5 large fresh (or frozen) strawberries 1 ½ ripe bananas ½ c. milk ½ c. vanilla yogurt 5 ice cubes 1 ½ tbsp. sugar
Combine all ingredients except sugar and blend until smooth consistency. Add sugar and continue blending.
Chad’s Strawberry Orange 1/2 c. orange juice 6 oz. Sprite 5 large frozen strawberries
I must say that being completely ignorant about sports and living with two men (my husband and son) who know everything about sports, I am taking great delight in the fact that I chose UCLA, Florida, Georgetown, and Ohio State on my brackets to go to the final four. And let me also say, these were not CJ and Chad’s four picks.
It takes me all of about two minutes to fill out my brackets while CJ and Chad take much, much longer as they carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses of each college team match-up, potential upsets, and whatever else they take into account. And yet, who’s winning? And did I mention that I won last year too? Wouldn’t you agree—there’s something to be said for my method?
And what does all this have to do with biblical womanhood? Well, I’m not really sure. But I just had to tell…so you could rejoice with me in my sweet victory over my men.
And if you’re curious about what team I chose to win it all, I picked Florida. Why? The reason has nothing to do about my knowledge of the Florida college team. I chose it because that’s the state where I grew up. Go Florida!!!
2007 at 2:52 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Well, Tori didn’t make her appearance during our “Noel Piper week” and it’s not looking like she will come this week either. As my doctor said this morning, “you’re going past your due date!”
I’m at forty weeks today and although the baby’s head is very low, not much else is happening. Also, given the way Tori’s head is facing right now she won’t fit, thus ruling out the option of a natural delivery. So, unless she rotates between now and next week, I am scheduled to have a c-section on Wednesday, April 4 at 8:00 a.m.
Whatever happens over the next week and a half, it’s wonderful to contemplate the fact that God has already ordained all of Tori’s days—including the day she will be born. Thank you once again for your prayers. I look forward to sharing the joy of Tori’s birth date with you.
Our Friday Funny for this week, sent to us by Joelle, reminded us of someone that we all know and love. This is just like something Nicole would do. Hee hee…
A few weekends ago, a good friend of mine from my childhood,
in town for a work conference and brought her mom with her, who is also
a family friend. My husband and I went out to eat with them on Saturday
night, and had a great time catching up. So, on Sunday, we decided to
have them over for lunch before they had to go to the airport. I
wanted to do some last minute cleaning before church, and decided to
dust, which I haven’t done in a long time! Really, it was a great idea
I thought, and I had the best of intentions.
I ran all over the
house like a mad woman, dusting everything I could find, from the TV,
to the lamps, to pictures on the wall. Then, after I was done getting
ready for church, I walked back through the living room, and I saw a
Raid (fresh scent of course) on the living room floor. You see, we have
a small bug problem in our condo when it rains a lot! So, I picked up
and was like, “What is this doing out?” Then, I realized….. I just
dusted the whole house with Raid instead of Pledge. Oh yea- I had just
sprayed that stuff all over the whole house. But, really, I had no idea
because you couldn’t really smell it—thanks to the fresh scent
My husband and I just couldn’t stop laughing about
this one. It topped the night I left dinner in the oven all night long
at 350 degrees, and the week after our wedding when I washed our brand
new pink and white bath towells in the same load! Thankfully the Lord
has given my husband a great sense of humor about life with me.
Catch y’all on Monday, Janelle for my mom and sisters
A stomach virus hit my baby girl in full force on Wednesday night. (Yes, this is the Book Club post. I’m getting there.) I awoke to her crying around midnight and her little stomach didn’t calm down (trying to put things delicately for all you easily grossed out people) until around 5 a.m. She is slowly recovering but wants Mommy to hold her or sit right next to her constantly. Lots of snuggle time!
While we are sharing many special moments together, the days have been long and required sacrifice. I have been tired from a lack of sleep and can’t get anything done unless Caly is napping. And when she is napping, something seems to pull me to my bed too! Caly isn’t thanking me; no one is here to watch and sing my praises.
But the Lord knew exactly what I needed to be reminded of. In chapter ten, when Sharon James describes Elizabeth’s novel, Stepping Heavenward, she writes: “The novel thus urged women to view every act of obedience, however humble, as an act of worship. This gave significance to all aspects of everyday life.” I was reminded that caring for my sick girl can be an act of worship to God. Motherhood is significant, regardless of how unglamorous or challenging, if done in obedience to God. Amazing!
This truth reaches far beyond sick kiddos. You may be sitting at work or school, or maybe you are carpooling or cleaning—doing tasks that don’t seem very important. If so, read these words again: “Your EVERY act of obedience, however humble, is an act of worship.” Rejoice in these opportunities to worship your Savior this day!
P.S. Read chapter 11 for next week. P.S.S. Picture of my sick girly…
Of course, reading the book is the best way to find out the answer to that question. The short answer is that if God is the center and treasure of our lives, that should (will?) reflect that reality in the way we choose to celebrate special occasions and to shape our everyday habits. With the book, I wanted to remind Christians of that and help them think about how it plays out.
Now that your children are grown, how have you seen the benefits of God-exalting traditions in your family life?
I believe that everything we do right in our family is, in some way pointing our children toward God. So the best thing I can see is that my children are following God and raising their children to treasure God.
If you had to pick, what would you say is your favorite Piper family tradition?
The one family tradition that I canNOT imagine abandoning is almost-daily family prayer/devotions. There are several related pieces to that tradition: Mealtime prayers Family devotions with whole family togethr Prayer time of just my husband and me together Personal devotional times for each person alone, including for the children
Your most recent book is Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God which is filled with fascinating stories of women of faith. How can we as women in the twenty-first century benefit from studying biographies of godly women from the past?
Hebrews 13:1-6 admonishes us to live godly lives and reminds us that God is our helper. Then verse 7 tells us one way that God helps us: Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. The writer of Hebrews tells us to look toward those who have gone before us in the faith, to listen to what they say about God and to look at the way they lived and to imitate their faith.
No one’s life is exactly like mine. And some lives seem too different to be of interest or use. But, when you consider a life, you discover similar emotions, fears, needs. For instance, I’m not afraid of imprisonment, but when I read about Esther Ahn Kim’s fear, I’m reminded how to deal with the things I AM afraid of.
I think that’s the point of the very next verse, Hebrews 13:8— Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.
My life is not exactly the same as any other person’s, but when I look at someone else’s life in a biography, it’s not ultimately her life I want to see. I want to see her Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Are you currently planning or working on another book you can tell us about?
I’m just starting to research the life of Betsey Stockton. As far as I know, no book has been written about her. She was an American-born black slave in the early 1800s, living in Princeton, NJ. She was freed soon after her conversion, and in 1823, became the 1st single woman to be sent out as a missionary in the American missionary movement, which had begun just a few years previous with the sending of Adoniram Judson. She went to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), expecting to spend her life there, but had to return to America after just a couple of years. Afterward, she became a matriarch in the black community of Princeton.
I would be very thankful for any sources or information that anyone can send me that might relate to her life and places.
Finally, and I saved the hardest one for last, what do you think is the most urgent need among Evangelical Christian women today?
One urgent need for men and women—but perhaps it’s more a problem for women—is to love and trust and seek God’s truth more than we depend on our own emotions. When I don’t understand or I hate the ways things are happening, I may want to think (even subconsciously), “I surely wouldn’t do things like that if I were God.” And then it would be easy for my emotions to tempt me to say, “Therefore, God is not good.”
We need to know that God is God, and we aren’t. We need to acknowledge that we don’t always understand why he acts as he does, but to trust that he sees everything and knows everything and has all power—AND that everything he does is good. That’s what he tells us in his Word, and his word is truth.
What is one question you wished I had asked and what is your answer?
Noël, what ministries are you involved with outside the church walls?
And my answer would be:
I get really excited about 2 kinds of ministry, and just recently the 2 have overlapped in an exhausting and exciting way.
1. For a long time, I have loved doing all sorts of missions travel. Usually I will be visiting missionary families or groups that include people sent from our church. Different trips have different emphases: prayer walks and personal prayer ministry perhaps or maybe speaking at a conference. Whatever the official form of a mission, I’m praying that a key impact will be that missionaries are encouraged and strengthened to continue the work and life God has given them. Always I learn lots about how God is working in other places and come back home knowing a little bit better how to pray for particular people and places.
2. In various ways over a lot of years, God has brought me more deeply into ministry to and with people with disabilities. For the last few years I’ve been on the Minnesota Board of Joni and Friends, which has been the primary channel for this sort of ministry.
These 2 kinds of ministry overlapped recently when I was part of a team distributing wheelchairs in Cameroon, West Africa. It’s a humbling thing to see people coming to you however they can get there—crawling on hands and knees, dragging themselves, being carried by someone not much larger than themselves—and to see that for these people mobility is more important than dignity . . . And then to see the faces when they were in their new chairs and could meet the world face to face. It made me stop and realize that almost everyone I know who uses a wheelchair would be moving like that—if they could move at all—without the blessing of a chair.
(I’m having to wipe my eyes looking again at this woman who couldn’t stop rejoicing.)
Noël, thank you so much for agreeing to be our first girl-to-girl talk interviewee. It’s been such a joy to get to know you a little better. We pray that God will continue to pour out His blessing on you and your family.
For our readers, we would encourage you to check out more resources by Noël Piper at www.desiringgod.org.
2007 at 2:19 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Today we want to welcome back Noël Piper for the second part of our interview…
Noël, when did your children come along and what was the most important lesson you learned as a young mother? What do you enjoy most about being a mother?
Our oldest was born when we had been married almost 4 years. On their birthdays this year, our sons will be 35, 32, 28, and 24. Talitha came to us when she was 2 months old, one month before my husband’s 50th birthday.
During their young years, when my days seemed to be shaped by interruptions, I’d often think: wiping runny noses and messy bottoms is not my calling; calling the refrigerator repairman and rescuing the spoiling contents of the fridge is not my calling; washing dishes is not my calling, walking through the dried remains of spilled koolaid is not my calling. At the end of a day, when I had done nothing—except those things and others like them—it could be pretty depressing. What’s the point when that’s all there is in life?
My only hope was remembering that when God gave me children, he called me to be a mother. His calling to a mother is that she be his servant, his tool, toward raising little boys and little girls to be godly men and women. One important thing for me to realize was that God is the only one who can bring our children to himself. But he gives me the privilege of being part of what he’s doing.
It helped to remember that every job has un-fun parts, including mothering. It really helped to look at somewhat older mothers and remind myself that there will be other chapters later, when I’m done with crushed cheerios underfoot.
Nowadays, one of my great pleasures is seeing my children and their wives enjoy each other.
You’ve raised four boys. What is one piece of advice you would give to mothers of sons?
Don’t get sucked into arguments, so that it starts to sound like 2 children squabbling instead of a mother with her child. For me, this was especially important with teenagers.
One important thing I learned was that I didn’t need to respond to every outrageous thing a son said. When my 14-year-old said he was going to buy a motorcycle as soon as he was 16, I gave myself a second to think, “Well, that’s not tomorrow.” And I said, “Mm-hmm.”
If it wasn’t something that needed imminent action or decision, I might say, “Well, you and Daddy and I can talk about that sometime.” But mostly, I’d just say, “Mm-hmm.” That’s non-committal and gives nothing for your child to argue about (Except when your son explodes, “That’s all you ever say—“Mm-hmm!”).
Tell us about adopting Talitha. How did this come about? What would you say to other couples contemplating adoption?
The short version is that we had been active in the pro-life movement for several years. Then when the opportunity came to adopt Talitha, we talked and prayed and consulted with our children and close friends for a couple of weeks. I had been wanting to adopt for some time, because I had felt a yearning to do something that involved more of my whole life than simply picketing in front of abortion clinics or gathering at rallies at the capitol, as right and good as those things were.
There were important factors to consider. One was our age, for instance, facing our child’s adolescence when we’re in our 60s. One was race; from the moment Talitha entered our family, we became a mixed race family and could never again complacently just be satisfied to let others live with and deal with difficult color issues.
Through adopting, I’ve realized things about parenting that I hadn’t thought about before. It’s an awesome thing to see the questions the court gives to adoptive parents, to pay attention to the pledges you make about the care and upbringing of this child and the responsibilities you promise to carry. Nobody ever asked me such pointed and particular questions before I up and got pregnant and had children that way.
I saw new significance and emotion in the Biblical picture of God’s adopting us. For example, the first time baby Talitha threw her arms around my neck and squeezed, my reflex thought was, “She knows I’m her mother!” I had never had that thought before about any of my other children. I just assumed they knew me as their mother. Now, think of God and the moment we “throw our arms around his neck” and know that he IS our Father.
You’ve been a pastor’s wife for 26 years now. We have many pastors’ wives who read our blog. What would you say to encourage them if you had the opportunity?
Several years ago, the wife of one of our young pastors was working full-time at a demanding job. As we talked about the stresses in their family, some other pastors’ wives and I raised the possibility that she should resign or at least cut back to part time. We knew how erratic a pastor’s schedule can be, which makes it valuable for his wife to have a more dependable time at home. Otherwise, they are both stressed by their work outside the home, and may never see each other.
On the other hand, if the wife is not employed full-time, she is able to participate in appropriate ways with or alongside her husband, which is a great encouragement to him. This is an intangible, that we couldn’t describe to her exactly or measure out what its value would be.
She named the factors that made it impossible for them to live on just his salary. We told her to pray about God’s will here, because we couldn’t be sure we knew what was best for her. We encouraged her not be be afraid about finances, that if it was good for her to cut back at work, God would provide money in ways she couldn’t expect.
Later, she did cut back and eventually resign. God has provided. And they have been part of our staff for all the years since. And she has been an active part of her husband’s ministry.
So, I guess my encouragement is this: Your presence and support and availability is an intangible but vital ministry to your husband, and therefore to your church as well.
What would you tell women about how to best support their pastor’s wife?
When we first came to Bethlehem in 1980, we were in our early 30s and the church was mostly people over 60. They were eager for a young pastor and his energy. It would have been easy for them to expect lots from me too. But they were kind to me. Lots of people approached me about working in their ministry area or leading another ministry area or taking on one responsibility or another. But always they asked the question in a way that did not assume I should be doing this because I was the pastor’s wife. They would let me know about openings and opportunities, but in a way that left me free to say, “Thank you for telling me about this. I will pray about it,” or just to say, “I’m glad to know about what’s happening in that area, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to be involved right now.”
In other words, the people of Bethlehem gave me the gift of letting me follow God’s leading into or not-into specific ministry areas, rather than feeling like they were expecting or pushing me.
Your husband is not only a pastor, but an author. You have a writing gift yourself (which we’ll get to in a moment) but I’ve heard John say that you are his most valuable editor. How have you been able to use this gift to serve your husband?
Here’s one of the many differences between my husband and me. He depends heavily on spell-check. But I can’t stand the squiggly underlinings questioning me at every turn when I’ve said exactly what I mean to say. In any case, spell-check can’t tell you when a sentence is ambiguous or when an extra word has slipped in that changes the meaning of a sentence. It takes a human reader to do that.
At some point in a book’s production, I read it through carefully. My husband is such a good writer that there are seldom, if ever, major changes to be made. But every writer needs someone else to proofread and edit, because an author knows so well what he intended to write that that’s what he tends to “see” instead of what he actually did write.
After being a part of Johnny’s speaking, teaching, and writing life so long, it can be easier for me to catch things another editor might not recognize as a mistake. But I’m familiar with what I think he meant to say, so I can check it with him.
It can be perversely pleasurable as a proofreader to search out and highlight other people’s errors. So I try to be kind in my corrections and comments.
OK, I’m going to put you on the spot here…what is your favorite John Piper book and why?
I especially enjoy reading the books in the Swan Series—the biographies. I often find it easier to see how God is working in my life (or how I want him to be working) when I see it happening in somebody else’s life.
Please join us tomorrow for the final portion of our chat with Noël Piper.